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Appropriate and Inappropriate Interview Questions


As an interviewer you hold two basic responsibilities:

  1. Identify and select the best person for the position.
  2. Apply the principles of non-discrimination and affirmative action in the interviews you conduct.

Because interviewing is one of the most vital stages of the employment process, it is important that caution be exercised.  Interview questions should be directly related to the articulated position responsibilities and to the candidate’s abilities to perform them effectively. Focusing on the written position description will eliminate inappropriate personal questions about such matters as marital status, plans to have children or child care arrangements. Further, focus on performance expectations will assist the candidate to make a responsible decision about her/his ability to meet those expectations.


  • Ask only what you need to know (i.e., what affects the day-to-day requirements of the job)—not what you would like to know (i.e., anything that does not pertain to the job, usually personal in nature).

  • If you have any question about the appropriateness of a question, don’t ask it.

  • If you ask a question of one applicant, you should ask the question of ALL applicants.

Use the following table as you formulate questions that will provide the information you need to make a responsible decision.
Subject Appropriate Inappropriate
Age Questions about age are only permitted if it is necessary to ensure that a person is legally able to do the job. Questions about age, dates of attending school, dates of military service, requests for birth certificates.
Address What is your address? Examples: Do you own or rent your home? How long have you lived at your current address?
Arrest Record May let applicants know that policy requires a criminal background check prior to hire. Questions about arrests or pending charges for jobs other than those that are substantially related to the particular job.
Convictions May let applicants know that policy requires a criminal background check prior to hire. If you ask whether the applicant has any convictions, you must also state that a conviction will not necessarily disqualify the applicant.
National Origin
May ask about legal authorization to work in the specific position if all applicants are asked. Exmples: Are you a US citizen?
Where were you born?
Where were your parents born?
Are you an American?
What kind of name is that?
Credit Rating or Garnishments Only if the job requires significant financial responsibility or access to cash or funds. In most cases, no question is acceptable. Questions about credit ratings since they have little or no relation to job performance.
Disability Are you able to perform the essential functions of this job-with or without accommodations? Questions about knowledge and skills necessary to perform the job requirements. Example: Do you have a disability?
What is the nature of your disability? Have you ever made a worker's compensation claim?
Education Inquiries about degrees or equivalent experience that are related to the job being applied for. Questions about education that are not related to the job being applied for.
Family/Marital Status Whether an applicant can meet work schedules or job requirements. If asking, should ask of all applicants. Any inquiry about marital status: married, single seperated, divorced, and engaged; children; pregnancy or child care plans.
Health None Example: How is your (or your family's) health.
Military Type of education and experience in service as it relates to a particular job. Type of discharge or registration status.
Name May ask current legal name. "Is additional information, such as a different name or nickname necessary in order to check job references?"

Questions about national origin, ancestry, or prior marital status.

Organizations Inquiries about professional organizations related to the position. Inquiries about organizations that might indicate race, sex, religion or national origin.
Race or Appearance None Comments about complexion, color, height, or weight.
Religion Describe the work schedule and ask whether applicant can work that schedule. If asking, should ask all applicants. Inquiries on religious preferences, affiliations, or denominations.
Sexual Orientation None Inquiries about sexual orientation. Inquiries revealing stereotypes for certain sexual orientation (i.e. why do you wear an earring?)
Work Experience Applicants' previous employment experience Questions about sick leave use or workers' compensation claims in previous job.